As a fan of historical fiction I've admired the work of Philippa Gregory from a distance for a long while now, and enjoyed the film The Other Boleyn Girl based on her novel of the same title.
I'm excited to have finally made her acquaintance so to speak after receiving two of her books from The Cousin's War series for Christmas last year: The White Queen and The Red Queen.
To be honest, I'd been procrastinating about reading The White Queen, enjoying the fantasy that Philippa Gregory could be my next favourite historical fiction author and at the same time prolonging any chance of disappointment. When I finally found the courage to take the plunge, I was both pleased and excited to find she exceeded my expectations in every possible way. Phew!
England in the late 1400s during the time of the House of Lancaster and the House of York is rich with material although some authors seem to drown in the details of court politics, rebellions and uprisings and end up confusing the hell out of their readers. And then there are authors like Philippa Gregory and Robin Maxwell who delight in the narrative and tantalise us with their tales of secrets and betrayals, war, love and sieges.
Elizabeth Woodville is a widow who meets King Edward IV on a roadside in an attempt to speak with him about her dead husband's land when a spark of attraction is ignited between them. They fall in love, although Elizabeth won't risk her reputation to lay with him and so the King proposes and they secretly marry. Elizabeth goes on to give birth to two sons; the Princes disappearance years later will mystify historians for centuries to come in the mystery known as the 'Princes in the Tower.'
Elizabeth is fiercely loyal to her family and protective of her children, ending her association with the House of Lancaster when she marries the King and joining the House of York; continuing to work out who she can trust and who to build alliances with until the very end.
Philippa Gregory walks us through complicated history with remarkable ease and I got a real sense of what it must have been like to live during these times of political unease and uncertainty. One day Elizabeth is a Queen and the next she is in sanctuary fearing for her life.
Regardless of the subject matter, The White Queen was easy to follow and the love story was quite a feature which I happened to quite enjoy; another surprise from Gregory (I don't usually handle the romance section of a novel too well).
Another bonus is that this novel contributes towards my Historical Fiction 2012 Reading Challenge, which is great news given I signed up for the Struggling the Addiction level of ten books. Click here if you'd like to join the challenge with me.
The next novel in this series is The Red Queen and I can't wait to read it soon. Have you read any books by Philippa Gregory? What were they and did you enjoy them? Drop me a line and share your reading experience.
My rating = ****